Saturday, March 11, 2006

Church and state

By now many people have heard about the resolution in the Missouri legislature which would make Christianity the state's official religion. It isn't surprising if you read the wording. It seems as if this bit of legislation may have been partly inspired by the trumped up "war on Christmas" that some (but not nearly all) conservative evangelical Christians got so worked up about last fall/winter as the Holiday season in the U.S. was approaching. Basically, with this "symbolic" resolution, it seems like it would then be A-OK to favor Christianity in holiday displays, for example, having a manger scene but not a menorah, for example. Of course, it might seem more sensible to just allow each religion to have a display during their own time of reflection and reverence--an Islamic display during Ramadan, a Christian scene during Christmas, a Jewish display during Chanuka, etc. But this way works much better for shit-stirring, which is generally what these types of grandstanding resolutions are really all about. Taking an unnecessarily controversial and provocative stand is one way to get the partisans fired up and distract people from other less flashy issues.

Then there is the bill in South Dakota which bans all abortions, and although this issue isn't neatly divided along religious lines, the drive for this bill was certainly energized and guided by religious organizations and conservative Christian legislators. The timing of these state laws, in addition to the one proposed in Illinois forcing doctors to give a philosophical statement (as opposed to a medical or scientific one) to women seeking an abortion, is not at all surprising. Keep your eyes open for many, many more of these bills favoring extreme or controversial conservative/evangelical Christian positions to be speeding their way through state legislatures around the country. Now that Bush has been able to put TWO new justices on the Supreme Court in less than a year, many who share the President's stated and implied views on social policy appear eager to give the new Court a chance for some judicial activism.

Stay tuned.

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